Swiss MP compares German minister to Gestapo

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Thomas Mueller intensifies his dispute with Germany’s finance minister Peer Steinbrueck.

BERLIN - A Swiss MP compared Germany's finance minister to the Nazi Gestapo police in an increasingly bitter dispute caused by Switzerland's banking secrecy laws, a German paper reported Friday.

"In Germany, the Gestapo was also an elite," deputy Thomas Mueller said in an interview with mass-circulation Bild, adding that the minister, Peer Steinbrueck, "reminded him" of the official Nazi secret police force.

"It's the way he presents himself: uncompromising, disrespectful and haughty," the MP added.

The conservative Swiss from the Christian Democrat party said his remarks were intended as an attack on Steinbrueck personally and that he wanted to encourage him to visit Switzerland in an attempt to "understand our country."

Tensions between the two politicians, initially triggered by a tax dispute between Switzerland and Germany, escalated since Mueller said in the Swiss parliament Wednesday that Steinbrueck was like a figure from the Nazi era.

"He reminds me of the old generation of Germans, who 60 years ago went through the streets with leather coats, boots and armbands," he said.

Switzerland's banking secrecy laws became the focus of a debate after Germany and France called for a list of tax havens to be developed ahead of a summit of G20 leaders in April.

On Thursday Steinbrueck told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily that as a result of the disagreement he received threatening letters from Switzerland and was called "a Nazi henchman."

Some Swiss were angered after Steinbrueck made a Wild West analogy last Saturday that was interpreted in Switzerland as likening them to "Indians" frightened by the threat of the "cavalry."

But Berlin minimised the argument Friday, with Steinbrueck's spokesman Thorsten Albig telling reporters, "We are relaxed."

Albig added that Steinbrueck would welcome a visit from Swiss President and Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz to discuss the matter.

"We would accept and welcome any requests for talks on this issue," he said.

AFP / Expatica

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